Nathan Lyon has written himself into cricket’s history books, becoming just the third Australian to snare 500 Test wickets to help wrap up a comprehensive win over Pakistan.
Australia’s greatest ever off-spinner reached his latest milestone when Faheem Ashraf was dismissed lbw on review late on day four of the first Test in Perth.
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Teammates mobbed the 36-year-old and the crowd, who had been cheering his every move since taking No.499 on day three, erupted in unison to celebrate the rare feat.
Lyon, who will lead a rapturous team song on Sunday night, now sits behind only Shane Warne (706) and Glenn McGrath (563) on Australia’s all-time Test wicket-takers list.
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Lyon wasted no time taking his 501st wicket, bowling Aamir Jamal four balls after the 500th wicket, and Pakistan lost two more in quick succession to be beaten by 360 runs.
The Aussie is now just 19 wickets away from surpassing West Indies legend Courtney Walsh (519) for seventh on the overall Test leaderboard.
Walsh, Stuart Broad (604), Anil Kumble (619), Jimmy Anderson (690), Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan (800) are the only cricketers ahead of Lyon.
Lyon celebrates his 500th Test wicket. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Australia wasted one review trying to get Lyon his 500th wicket in the 26th over before the successful attempt in the 28th.
“I tell the umpires I only appeal when it’s out but they don’t always listen to me,” Lyon joked on Channel 7.
The off-spinner said he still pinches himself to see his name up in lights alongside Warne and McGrath.
“It’s something I’m very proud about,” he said.
“Ending my Ashes the way I did, (injured) quite early in the series, I’ve had a lot of time to think about.
“But to do all my rehab and to get back here with these guys, a special bunch of people, to go out there and perform like we did, but personally to take 500 it’s a bloody big milestone.
“I’m not even next to those guys in my eyes. Warne is the greatest to have ever played this game, in my opinion, and McGrath’s record speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
“To edge closer to those guys, I’m very proud.”
Lyon’s wife Emma said it was “a weight lifted off everyone’s shoulders”.
“To get it done in Perth at the beginning of the summer, a lot of hard work’s gone behind this wicket, so very excited. Very proud of him,” she told Channel 7.
Emma Lyon celebrates her husband’s 500th Test wicket from the stands. Credit: Channel 7
Australian captain Pat Cummins said he “couldn’t be happier” for Lyon.
“Just huge, isn’t it, 500 Test wickets,” the skipper said.
“That’s all over the world, that’s over a decade, all conditions, he just finds a way. Couldn’t be happier for him.
“I know he’s been stewing on that for about six weeks with his calf injury so great to see him back and bowling as well as he ever has.”
Lyon had looked likely to take his 500th wicket on Saturday night before the part-time spin of teammate Travis Head took the last wicket of Pakistan’s first innings.
Australia saw the funny side of the situation, with Head said to have offered his justification to Lyon.
“Travis said when they replay your 500th wicket, you don’t want it to be a tailender, you want it to be a good wicket at the top,” Josh Hazlewood said with a smile.
“We’ll see it happen in the second innings hopefully.”
Aussies seal comfortable victory
Australia declared at 5-233 soon after lunch on Sunday when Usman Khawaja was caught at deep third man for 90.
Chasing 450 for victory, Pakistan were rolled for 89 in 30.2 overs, with Starc (3-31), Josh Hazlewood (3-13) and Lyon (2-14) sharing the spoils.
“Great start to the summer. Everything fell into place so couldn’t be happier,” Pat Cummins said.
“It was (a smooth transition from the Cricket World Cup). Everyone’s pretty chilled, pretty relaxed.”
Mitch Marsh was named player of the match in his hometown Test despite missing out on a first-innings century by 10 runs.
The 32-year-old contributed plenty beyond that, taking the key wicket of Babar Azam in Pakistan’s reply and finishing 63 not out in Australia’s second innings.
“It’s been amazing, my first Test at Perth Stadium and first Test match in Perth for six years. It was nice to be back,” Marsh said.
“Thanks everyone for getting around me, it’s been an incredible experience.”
Marsh said he was happier with the runs than his sole wicket because “bowling hurts way too much”.
Australia will chase a series victory when the MCG hosts the Boxing Day Test in nine days’ time.
Mitch Marsh celebrates the key wicket of Babar Azam on day three. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE
Lyon’s journey to 500
Lyon famously kicked off his Test career with a wicket on his first ball, dismissing Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakkara with a classic off-break delivery to a left-hander.
Sangakkara edged the ball straight to Michael Clarke, who took a good catch at first slip.
Lyon, who now has 123 Tests to his name, recorded his best bowling figures of 8-50 in 2017 against India in Bangalore — a new high mark by a visiting bowler in India.
Lyon was all but certain to reach the magical 500-wicket mark during the Ashes in England this year until he was struck down by a calf injury at Lord’s and sidelined from the rest of the series.
In a testament to Lyon’s impact on the team, the Aussies struggled to maintain the form that had seen them lead the series 2-0 prior to his injury in the second Test.
Lyon dismissed none other than Kumar Sangakkara for his first Test wicket back in 2011. Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP
Australia lost the third Test in Headingley and they were all but certain to lose the fourth in Manchester before rain intervened, while they coughed up the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
“I was in a very dark place when the Ashes were still on,” Lyon said earlier this year of his consignment to watch from home in July and August.
“I struggled. I probably wasn’t the nicest person to be around, so my wife probably struggled a little bit.
“It’s just the love of the game and the care factor I have for the Australian cricket team, but also my teammates.
“When you see them not achieving what they set out to achieve — we retained the Ashes, but we missed a big opportunity (to win the series) — and that probably hurts me the most that we weren’t able to win that when we were 2-0 up.
“The last three games while sitting at home, I found it really hard.
“It was a proper mental challenge, but it allowed me to sit at home with my family and reset, but also freshen up and look at it as an opportunity to get better and understand what I need to do to keep going.”
But he said his time away from the game, and Australia’s failure to win the series — though, as the holders, they retained the Ashes with a 2-2 series draw — has only left him more hungry to get back to the UK in four years’ time and go again.
By that time Lyon will be pushing 40 yet he’s backing himself to get there.
“It’s probably extended it (my career),” Lyon said of his calf injury.
“I’ve always said I wanted to win in India and England, and I haven’t been able to do that, so it looks like we’ve got to go again.”